This is no ordinary couple. They are both powerhouses from the Pocket/Greenhaven area. Danea’s new book Chronic Resilience was released, August 1 – the same day she learned she was in kidney failure. That grave diagnosis from the doctors didn’t stop her from moving full speed ahead with her arduous West coast book tour, before agreeing to a transplant date of October 1. The scheduled surgery falls just two weeks before both the Kings’ pre-season opener and the couple’s 11th wedding anniversary.
“Traditionally the 11th year anniversary symbol is steel, which symbolizes the strength of marriage,” said Danea. “This generous and unconditional gift from Phillip – at one of the busiest times in his career – creates an emotional bond stronger than anything, including steel, ever could. It’s an amazing thing to do together and I love that we’re a match in so many ways.”
Phillip continues, “I feel so lucky to be a match. It was against the odds. Usually we go to a nice place the first or second week of October to celebrate our anniversary. This time it was from a hospital bed, yet it will likely be the most memorable place of them all. “People are always looking for that gift that money can’t buy and this is definitely one,” Phillip said.
Born with one kidney, Danea has fought VACTERL association – a disorder that affects many body systems, including the kidneys – since birth. By the time she was 2 years old, Danea had survived 10 reconstructive surgeries. It has not been an easy journey. “I’ve managed chronic kidney disease for years,” she said. She kept asking her doctors when there would be a point when her kidneys would be able to function. “I almost had to laugh at timing,” she said. In the matter of a month, functioning rate went down from 15 to 12 to 6 percent.
While there are many unknowns as to the cause of VACTERL association, Danea said one of the best things she’s learned about good kidney health is keeping blood pressure down.
They had to postpone the surgery to Monday, Oct. 7 because of a stomach bug Phillip caught. The two are not nervous about the transplant. “We are just waiting; we’re excited,” Phillip told The Pocket News on Wednesday, Oct. 2.
“It was a pretty good, straight match,” Phillip said. The two are taking it easy now so they are in a good place for recovery.
Said Danea: “I think we’re on for Monday. I think we’re sort of ready. The anticipation sort of builds and builds and builds. I am looking forward to regaining my health. Looking forward to the day to start.”
A young couple, each just 34 years old, the two plan on adopting children in the near future. They actually started the adoption process last year but put that on hold. “It will be something to celebrate at the end of the (recovery).”
Inside their Pocket residence, the couple has the love and support from family and friends to help them get through this time of their lives. “Our moms moved in with us on Sunday and we have lots of other people who are going to come and visit,” Danea said.
Even as her health started plummeting, Danea kept her scheduled appearance as moderator and author at the Capitol Region Women’s Conference on Sept. 27, at the Sacramento Convention Center, just five days before the transplant was first scheduled.
“I was one of the many speakers. The panel I moderated was on ‘Embracing Change.’” To embrace change, she said, you have to let go of something and grasp something else. “A lot of things are not in our control. It takes a lot of trust. My book is about having resilience,” she said.
That message has helped with having to cope with the rescheduled surgery and knowing what they can do to help get through the week in preparation for Monday. “Everybody is resting up and making sure we are healthy. It’s definitely a practice not an, ‘oh I understand.’”
“I titled my book ‘Chronic Resilience’ because I realized that to be the essence of gracefully coping with illness,” said Danea. “Spiritual growth is a ‘side effect’ of chronic illness. Illness is your license to be as deliberate and thoughtful with your time as you want to. Live as you would live at the end of your life right now, today. That is a gift.”
Phillip echoes his wife’s thoughts, “Danea and I have similar philosophies – life is meant to be lived. I don’t want to sit and watch it pass me by. I embrace challenging experiences. When I look back on my life, I know I’m going to be most excited about how resilient I was in overcoming life’s obstacles, versus backing down. Life is meant to grow from, and the more challenges we can take on the more we are going to grow.”
Danea said book sales have been going so well that she’s “bummed” to have to have taken a break.
Phillip, living Danea’s Chapter 3 message of setting attainable, inspiring goals while healing, has his sights set on recovering quickly to be in the building when the Kings take the court for the first time in this season of exciting change for the franchise.
Phillip’s gift of life continues into the Kings’ season. On February 19, in the Kings’ home matchup against the Golden State Warriors, he is spearheading a “Kings Donate Life Night,” in order to help raise awareness of the critical need for organ and tissue donors. Fans will be encouraged to sign up to give life through the DMV when getting a license, or online at: www.donateLIFEcalifornia.org.
He’s also tremendously excited for the upcoming basketball season, which will be his fourth as VP for the team. “Shaq is a big personality. He’s great for our team.”
The couple has lived in Sacramento for three years. Danea grew up in San Diego and Phillip on the Oregon Coast. “We feel very blessed. It’s such an easy city to live in and we’ve gotten involved in the community more. We love living in the Pocket.”